A Little About Me…
Yes, that’s right.
I’ve been an educator for 35 years. Over the course of my career I’ve had the following teaching assignments (in order):
- Intern at the Northeast Career Center and the Ohio School for the Deaf, and area elementary schools in Columbus, Ohio, as an agricultural educator;
- Graduate Teaching Assistant, teaching non-majors introductory horticulture and plant identification classes at The Ohio State University;
- Adjunct Instructor, teaching vocational agriculture to non-degree students at the Ratcliffe School of Agriculture at the University of Connecticut;
- Trainer and Instructor, teaching Home Depot garden center employees introductory horticulture in the Northeastern United States.
Early Childhood Educator
- Preschool teacher, working with 3- and 4-year-olds at the Willington Nursery Cooperative in Willington, Connecticut;
- 1:1 Educational Assistant, working with a student with multiple disabilities at Center Elementary School in Willington, Connecticut;
- Special Education Paraprofessional, working with 1st through 3rd grade students with mild to moderate disabilities at Center Elementary School;
- Kindergarten Paraprofessional, Center Elementary School;
- Dual Language Teacher, working with 3rd grade students in the Companeros Program at North Windham Elementary School in Willimantic, Connecticut.
- Education Consultant and Team Coordinator, Early Intervention and Teaching and Learning Projects, State Education Resource Center, Middletown, Connecticut;
- Independent Education Consultant, working with educators nationwide, at Northside Consulting.
- Homeschool teacher/assistant principal/chief cook and bottle washer, Grades 1-10… on to 11th grade next year…
STEM Coach and Consultant
- STEM Consultant, New London Public Schools, working with grades K-12;
- STEM Coach, Winthrop STEM Elementary Magnet School, New London, Connecticut, working with educators and students in grades K-5.
- Special Ed intern at York Correctional Institution and Carl Robinson Correctional Institution, working with adults with disabilities in all content areas;
- Literacy tutor at CRCI, working with adults with reading disabilities;
- Special Educator, working at Natchaug Hospital, with students grades 6-12 in an alternative, clinical day treatment setting for students with emotional, mental health and addiction issues.
It’s taken me a long time, but I know the place where I currently roost is where I’m supposed to be. It’s my favorite position of all my time as an educator.
What I’ve Learned About Teaching
Here are 35 things I learned over 35 years of being an educator – in no particular order.
- If you want the pruners put back in the right place, trace their outline onto the pegboard with a Sharpie. Label the outline, “pruners.”
- Parents do the best they can with what they have.
- Some teachers get a “loaded” classroom, because those kids deserve the best instruction.
- It’s really okay to say that you don’t want to teach anymore.
- Teachers don’t like having new curriculum materials every two years. It makes them feel like new teachers all over again.
- All of us (kids and adults) learn new ideas better when we start with concrete objects.
- Incarcerated adults love succeeding at school.
- Some kids swear and act out because that’s the only power they feel like they have.
- Loving your students is a bittersweet part of the job.
- Being a second-language learner means you know one more language than most Americans – and that’s a strength.
- Rubrics are great for teaching, learning and assessment.
- Kids with behavior problems aren’t used to hearing about their strengths.
- People who are white can never really understand what it’s like to be a student of color in America.
- Teaching teachers is harder than teaching students of any age.
- When looking at data, there’s always a story behind the numbers.
- “Homeschool” isn’t “school at home.”
- Many kids learn just fine when they’re “unschooled.”
- Kids become attached to their teacher.
- New teachers sometimes need a shoulder to cry on, a reminder to eat, and chocolate.
- Teacher’s guides are not meant to be followed cover to cover.
- Little kids can understand big numbers – and we should let littles work with them.
- Elementary and Special Ed teachers need more confidence in science and math.
- Social studies = the forgotten subject in elementary schools.
- Finding a restaurant in the phone book is not an easy task for many students with disabilities.
- Teens find it more fun to swear in English than in their first language (whether Spanish, Creole or American Sign Language).
- It’s easier to remember scientific names if you set them to music.
- Preschoolers and college students both need to be reminded to eat right and go to bed on time.
- Stations and centers are fun for littles, teens and even adult learners (even though no one likes to call them “centers” with big kids).
- All kids can learn to love going to the library.
- Play is work for little kids.
- A good record-keeping system makes a SpEd teacher’s life much happier.
- For most kids, reading and writing happens spontaneously, when provided the right environment.
- Teachers are historically underpaid for what they do in the United States.
- Gifted and talented kids need specialized instruction, too.
- Children will rise to meet the bar, however high (or low) you set it.
How About You?
What are some take-aways you’ve had, as an educator? Please share.